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The world’s first pop-up EV charging unit trial paves way for wider roll-out

01 July 2020

A successful 6-month trial to test the world’s first pop-up electric vehicle charge point in a residential street in Oxford has taken place.

The UEOne pop-up charge point has been developed and manufactured by product design company Duku for Urban Electric Networks Ltd at their Cheltenham design studio and protected by sister intellectual property company Albright IP. 
The project involved designing, prototyping, testing and manufacturing six retractable charge points that can rise automatically when required and disappear out of sight when not in use, maintaining space on paths and avoiding visual clutter. The project was conducted in association with Oxford City Council. 

The retractable nature of the charge points means that they reduce the amount of street furniture permanently on view. They are straightforward and speedy to install and don’t require the use of heavy machinery – a real bonus for councils, road-users and residents alike.

The consortium was successful in receiving funding from Innovate UK to realise the concept and prove its value in meeting the growing need to fast track the UK’s EV charging network.

“This has been a fantastic project to work on,” said Duku Director Alex Lee. “It addresses a real obstacle in the adoption of Electric cars – how to bring EV charging to drivers who have no-off street parking and no access to charge points near their homes.” 

More than 40% of drivers don’t have off-street parking, with this figure rising to 85% in some parts of London which is a prime market for the short distance commuting to which electric vehicles are so well suited. 

“There aren’t currently any viable, sustainable solutions, so we were asked to look at developing a pop-up charge point that would allow EV owners to utilise practical and cost-effective steady overnight charging at home,” said Lee.

Using state of the art CAD technology and 3D printing, Alex Lee and his team developed and manufactured the UEOne, a reliable and robust charge point which users can command to pop up and connect their vehicle for charging. When the charge is complete, the charge point is retracted out of sight. Discreet LED halo lighting indicates the location and status of the charge point ready for the next user.

“Coming up with a solution that would be reliable and suitable for the installation environment was a challenge, especially when you consider existing infrastructure such as electrics and telecoms cables.”

To ensure accessible connection to a user’s EV, the charge point rises 800mm above the pavement surface when fully extended, so Duku had to minimise that bulk beneath the ground when retracted using an innovative telescopic design. In addition, it needed to ensure the charge points were able to operate in all conditions that the British weather can throw at it which during the trial period consisted of 30-degree heat, ice and torrential rain and flooding!

The project allowed Duku to demonstrate its flexible in-house manufacturing capabilities, with many of the components for the charge points being manufactured using recycled materials and modern production techniques such as 3D printing. 

“This allowed us to be agile in our design development work, giving us the ability to act quickly to make design improvements that could be retrofitted to the charge points in a matter of days.”

After trialling six units in Oxford over a six-month period working in partnership with the city council, Duku says the results have been extremely promising, and a further project is now underway to enable a roll-out of the technology on a commercial, UK-wide scale.

“The feedback from the residents who trialled the charge points was very encouraging and emphasised the need for such technology to be reliable, accessible and avoid being a permanent eyesore,” added Alex Lee.

“We also learned a good deal about user interaction with the charge points and how to minimise the cost and disruption of installation and maintenance. We are now working on a second phase design which will incorporate additional features to make the charge points as easy to use and reliable as possible as well as further engineering that will ensure a cost-effective manufacturing process as the volumes scale up.”

“It has been hugely exciting to work on a project which is a genuine innovation in this sector and of real value in the move towards the widespread adoption of electric cars.”


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